Where to eat in Seoul: James Cheese & Back Ribs

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Have you imagined having spicy pork back ribs with the slight saltiness of cheese and the crunch of corn? This is the basic premise of James Cheese & Back Ribs, a hip restaurant for the beer-drinking, calorie-consuming youth of Seoul, Korea. 

It may sound weird - grilled marinated pork that you can coat in cheese... However, photos from those who have already eaten there made us think otherwise. The restaurant has two branches (that we know of) in Seoul - Hongdae and Myeongdong. Because we went to Trickeye Museum early in the morning, we headed to James Cheese & Back Ribs for lunch.

The facade of the restaurant

Hongdae is a neighborhood near Hongik University and is filled with restaurants, bars, cafes, and shopping areas intended for the youth. As expected, James Cheese & Back Ribs serve alcohol to go with the pork back ribs. And since we were there for lunch, the restaurant only had a table occupied by some Chinese tourists. 

Although it's near the university, the restaurant is far from affordable. One order is 9,000 KRW for only one person so we had to order two. The total damage to our wallets is 18,000 KRW or almost Php 800. 

The menu
A portable stove on your table is already set up and after ordering, the staff will provide you with the basic side dishes - (left to right) buttered corn, radish, pickles, and kimchi.

The interior of the restaurant is pretty sleek with the wooden tables, black ceiling. black chairs, and wooden tissue holders. The utensils are placed in a steel bucket that later converts into a container to dump your discarded pork bones.

Cute restaurant name signage

Once your order is ready, the staff will place this stone grill platter on the portable stove, which they will operate. Soon, you can see the cheese melting and bubbling. The staff will then help you separate the back ribs by using the scissors provided in the bucket on your table. Aside from the pork and cheese, they also provide you with extra corn, egg, and... I forgot that white thing on the sides.

See it bubbling away...

Plastic gloves are provided so you can eat with your hands. What's tricky is how you coat your pork back ribs with the cheese, which you can pull from the grill with the chopsticks. Once the cheese loses its heat, it would be harder to pull it and coat on the pork. So eat it while it's hot!

The cheese used was mozzarella so it was a bit bland. However, it did its job to neutralize the spiciness of the sauce used in the pork ribs. It's like eating deconstructed pork BBQ pizza without the bread. The sauce of the pork ribs is flavorful enough to make us forget that the blandness of the cheese.

It was not strange - it's an interesting concept which we haven't experienced here in our country. I also wondered how nice it would have paired with beer, like pizza and beer but for this one, with more effort.

Several messy minutes later, the steel bucket is now filled with the discarded pork bones. Even without our usual source of carbs - rice- we felt full after that meal. All in all, we were happy to have stuffed all those meat and cheese in our belly. Given the chance, we'll dine there again and probably try it during dinner just for a change.

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